Archive for the ‘Web Development’ Category

It’s worth noting that JavaScript is making quite a few headlines these days, at least in the software developer community. No, it’s no exactly a new language, and I have been using it in many apps on a small scale since many years. jQuery has become an important tool in my daily work (and that of my close colleagues). But these days we’re not just talking about developments added to a webpage; the latest JavaScript talk is about much bigger things.

First (well, to me at least ;-) there was Node.js. In its own words, ”Node.js is a platform built on Chrome’s JavaScript runtime for easily building fast, scalable network applications” – on servers, for example. The recently announced blogging platform Ghost is written in JavaScript and based on Ghost. I just read that Groupon is also migrating (parts of) its main web app to Node.js. Not just ”because JavaScript is cool”; Node.js has a high performance reputation in serving web pages, as evidenced again in ”An example of how Node.js is faster than PHP”.

Then came Fargo. Fargo is an outliner from the King of Outliners, Dave Winer. You can try out the essential features of outlining in Fargo’s little brother, appropriately called ’Little Outliner’.

And now I have written the draft of this post in another interesting web application: StackEdit. A wide screen is advisable, but yes, it even works in Chrome on my Android tablet. Well done, guys.

What will be next?


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You too can experience what is was to surf the web in the early 1990’s. The article “World’s first cross-platform Web browser brought back to life” on Ars Technica explains how. Weird, huh? It shows how fast we humans adapt our lifestyle and expectations to new software – 1992 is not that long ago!

My blog as if in 1992

My blog as if in 1992

PS. I had to cheat a bit: the CSS for the “Line-mode browser” refers to a font called ‘cern’ that is unreadable on my Mac – so I turned it into ‘monospace’. Nor does the “Line-mode browser” like the comments in the WordPress Javascript: what you see is actually the third screen, not the start of the page as you might expect. 

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Ghost, the blogging platform mentioned yesterday, is well worth a look – literally. The page design as proposed out of the box is very much to my liking, and if the system proves to be as easy to use as promised, then it might well be a excellent choice for a beginning blogger (I have too much invested in this blog to contemplate moving again!).
And not only does Ghost look great, it also does away with the pseudo-rich-text-editor approach I don’t like at all. For those of you still not convinced: no, you don’t need dozens of fonts, font sizes and colors for textual content on the Web! What you need is a few ways to indicate structure in your text, and that does not require a bad MS Word clone. Ghost smartly chooses Markdown. That editor reminds me of the way text is edited in many Wikis – an excellent approach, focussing on content, not on presentation – presentation is the responsibility of the tool and its designer.

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If you’re a ColdFusion or CFML junkie, reading Mod Media’s “What You Didn’t Know About CFML” won’t tell you anything new – but your employer or client might learn a thing or two ;-)

The Mod Media Infographic: Wat You Didn't Know About CFML

The Mod Media Infographic: Wat You Didn’t Know About CFML

As if to prove the point, just today I noticed two CFML-based websites. Scientific American clearly runs CFML code to display pages (page.cfm), articles (article.cfm) and more, and Belgian technology news site smartbiz.be proudly proclaims ‘ColdFusion Powered by Railo‘.

So don’t let anyone tell you that CFML is dead!

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I’m currently attending an ‘Advanced Developer’ training for SharePoint 2010, so I think it’s a good idea to keep track of some of the tools that can help with SharePoint development. If I’m to believe Google, this SharePoint Developer Tools list on Listly seems to be the ‘best’ overview. ‘CKS – Development Tools Edition for Visual Studio‘ and ‘ULS Viewer‘ were already mentioned and used during our training, by the way. I’m pretty sure there are versions of these for SharePoint 2013 as well.

Some of the tools mentioned are hardly specific to Sharepoint, though, and would be better catalogued as ‘web developer tools’. Oh well, if that helps new SharePoint developers to pick up a few serious tools…

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I’m still cleaning up my home office, and it will take a lot more time – I’m going about it very slowly. Anyway, this is my find of the day:

May 1999 - Free BSD and Allaire ColdFusion 4 on a single CD-ROM

May 1999 – Free BSD and Allaire ColdFusion 4 on a single CD-ROM

Strangely enough, the CD-ROM wouldn’t boot up an old PC with a 700Mhz Athlon CPU and 256KB of RAM – but that PC isn’t exactly new either, and I haven’t used it in more than a year. Recycling that PC seems to be the best option now ;-)

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Last wednesday Adobe hosted a Belgian ColdFusion User Group meeting. Subjects of meeting were Less and Bootstrap. I liked the Bootstrap demos given by Guust Nieuwenhuis, all the while thinking about how Boostrap would have simplified my life (and that of my colleagues) while developing our intranet apps more than five years ago. .. but that was before HTML5 was there to build on…

If you want a quick intro to Bootstrap without going to a user group meeting, have a look at Matt Raible’s extensive Bootstrap overview (he describes the creation of this presentation app in his blog post of April 23, 2013).

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The following jQuery 1.6 code snippet works (or at least it seems to work) in Chrome 24 and Firefox 20, but not in IE8: IE8 keeps showing me the “missing image” graphic when the requested image does not exist on the server. Why?

$.ajax( $("#prod").val() + ".jpg", {
  type: "GET",
  data: "{}",
  error: function() { $("#preview").html( "" ) },
  fail: function() { $("#preview").html( "" ) },
  done: function() {
  success: function() {

If it wasn’t clear: I’m trying to check the existence of a JPEG file on the webserver before showing it in a DIV with the id “preview”, where the JPEG is named after the OPTION value in the “prod” SELECT. The code snippet should be packaged in a function called when the user changes the product selection, of course. I have tried a few variants of the code, having started with “$.get()“, but none of them worked as expected.

I have found a few mentions of IE8 trouble with the “$.ajax()” function, like these: http://forum.jquery.com/topic/jquery-ajax-ie8-problem or https://github.com/angular/angular.js/issues/1418. I’m yet to find an clear explanation for what might go wrong with my simple HTTP GET, however…

Do I really have to give up on jQuery in order to get it running on the admittedly antiquated IE8, and apply the solution presented on StackOverflow: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2659208/ie8-jquery-ajax-call-giving-parsererror-from-django-for-json-data-which-seem? Or is there a better solution without jQuery?

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TechRadar uses strong wording to explain the WebRTC project: “The web has revolutionised communication, and WebRTC promises to take the revolution a step further. The free, open-source project enables compliant web browsers to communicate in real-time using simple JavaScript APIs”. Read the whole article titled “WebRTC uncovered: why it’s the future of online communications” for more details.

As to WebRTC replacing Skype c.s.: perhaps these tools will add WebRTC to their palette of communications protocols, rather than being replaced by it…

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Wiki’s are no longer the spearpoint of the ‘social media’ that they were a few years ago. That does not mean they have gone away or, worse, have become irrelevant. It’s good to see that a major player like Ars Technica publishes a nice Mediawiki installation manual: “Web Served 7: Wiki wiki wiki!“.

The rest of the ‘Web served’ series – on how to setup and use a secure webserver – is worth reading as well, if you have little or no experience with the subject.

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Want to learn new programming skills online? Well, you can do that if you want to. Check out the list of resources presented at dzone by Danny Bradbury. There is something to be said for online study tools, for example when they include interactive exercises.

But if you prefer books, here are a few posts that may help you pick a truly excellent title.


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There are two interesting sides to this experiment: Coding project aims to deepen the experience of streaming classical music (Ars Technica). I like listening to classical music, but I often wonder: is what we hear today really what the composer intended? Or: why did the composer use those instruments? Having a running commentary while listening to a piece could be quite illuminating, if and when some of my favourites were to belong to the selection.

On the other hand, this project is a nice illustration of some of the powers of HTML5. Food for techies and music fans at the same time!

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The W3C, the standards body that oversees the development of HTML, is starting a Wiki to (hopefully) create a definitive, up-to-date collection of documentation on all the web standards (and more). In the words of Webmonkey: “The W3C has managed to bring together some of the biggest names on the web to help create Web Platform Docs. Representatives from Opera, Adobe, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Nokia will all be lending their expertise to the new site“.

Of course, the really interesting part – for me, that is – is the Wiki that will encompass all those Web Platform Docs. I do wonder how much “non-expert” material will be added to the site – writing documentation is not the same as writing code, as evidenced by the lack of decent documentation in many software projects. Then again, not just developers can (should) add their expertise.

I guess the W3C will be exercising some kind of editorial supervision. To their credit, the creators of the site have clearly indicated how anyone can help, even if you’re unfamiliar with the technologies mentioned – that’s a good idea for any Wiki, by the way.

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As websurfers, we do not really notice the tools and technologies that drive the sites and applications we visit and use. Yet, the last decade has seen an enormous evolution: most current content management tools are relative newcomers, and to complicate matters most websites have frequently changed their structure, content and layout, be it within the same tool set or not.

I am still working on the last part of the migration of this blog from the “old” EditThisPage.com service to WordPress. I’m doing this manually, not just because I never took the time to convert the Manila backup into something WordPress can import, but also because it allows me correct spelling and other errors in the old version. And from time to time I check for linkrot too…

Today, I am migrating blog posts from March 2006, and the post from the 26th puzzled me (see the new version here). Clearly, the sentence “We love democracy, providing the Muslim nations elect the people we want” was wrong; the question was, did I miss-spell “provided” as “providing”, or did my source? So I clicked the link to the source, and got a 404 error message telling me the link in my post is dead.

The good news, of course, is that the website The Truth Seeker is still around. Even better: on their home page I spotted a link to their “Old site”. That old site does not look pretty, because there are obviously images missing. But it is still there, and changing my original link from “http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/article.asp?ID=4286” to “http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/oldsite/article.asp?ID=4286” brought me back to the source of my quote!

My conclusions from this little story:

  1. Webmasters, please do not forget the older versions of your sites – just deleting them may create a lot of linkrot.
  2. The Truth Seeker did the right thing and kept the older site;  too bad their missing page mechanism does not take the old links into account.
  3. The spelling mistake I noted did exist in the source, so I’m leaving my quote as it was (but  I have added a small editorial indication explaining that I did not make the mistake).

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Talk about a thorough comparison: Play vs. Grails Smackdown at ÜberConf.

Play and Grails have been hyped as the most productive JVM Web Frameworks for the last couple of years. […] That’s why James Ward and I decided to do a presentation at ÜberConf comparing the two.

Matt Raible and James Ward built the same application with both frameworks, and put the end result as open source software on Github. Their presentation is not just pretty (thank you, Reveal.js) but above all very thorough.

My conclusion? Both frameworks, like a few others no doubt, allow you to build serious, performant applications. The devil, as always, is in the details – that’s where a good app distinguishes itself, and in many cases the quality of the app is determined more by the quality of the developer than by the quality of the framework used. So why don’t you try a few frameworks, and see what “feels” best? Not having to fight a framework (or a programming language!) to achieve the desired result may well be the best recipe for successful development.

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